March 06, 2006 12:00 PM

>Brooke Lea Foster For every study that shows children of divorce do fine, another finds they bear emotional scars. So what if couples stay together for the kids—only to separate once they’re grown? Journalist Foster, 30 (who has contributed to PEOPLE), offers some insight.

HOW DID THE BOOK COME ABOUT? Nothing tested me in my adult life more than my parents’ split when I was 26. I felt as if the world had collapsed, but my age made everyone assume I’d be fine. When I tried to find a book about adults experiencing parental divorce I found just one, which was out of print. So I interviewed 75 other adults to see what they were feeling and how they coped.

HOW DO GROWN KIDS FARE? Being an adult doesn’t lessen the pain of parents divorcing. It can be harder.

HOW IS IT HARDER? Knowing your parents stayed together for you can spoil memories—make them feel stale or phony. Parents burden adult children with their problems. And our grief isn’t taken as seriously as a young child’s. Therapists say parents are shocked when grown children show distress.

WHAT CAN HELP? Set boundaries; tell your parents you don’t want to be in the middle, that you’re still their child and they need to respect that. Talk about your own feelings.

SHOULD PARENTS STAY MARRIED FOR THE KIDS? I feel they should be together only if the marriage works. Because the divorce will hurt the kids no matter when it happens.

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